A good night’s sleep

Members of the community discuss their experiences with sleep deprivation and its negative impact on their lives.


Fallon Dern

Though she said sleep deprivation harms her day-to-day wellbeing, Camryn Williams ’22 said she is not the only one subject to exhaustion. Every day, Williams said she enters classrooms filled with tired eyes and listens to teachers joke about their caffeine reliances. She said her    exhaustion has not made her an anomaly in the school system but rather one of many people who are experiencing the same sleep situation.

“I think every single day, [being tired is] the main conversation starter,” Williams said. “People will walk up to you and say, ‘Oh, I’m so tired’ or ‘I barely slept last night.’ That’s pretty much been all of my conversations at school with both friends and anyone in my classes.”

Williams said the process of college applications creates stress and sleepless nights for herself and many other seniors, but she said this teaches her to function with less rest.

“Unfortunately, I don’t get a lot of sleep due to being a first-semester senior,” Williams said. “It fluctuates. Sometimes I make sure that I get eight hours of sleep, but other times it’s pretty bad. I’ll have slept for four or five hours and be very tired at school. That’s when I feel like I’m not as productive in my classes and when I’m only thinking about getting through the day.”

Williams said while she often feels tired at school, she is grateful for how teachers have been more lenient to her and other seniors during the first semester this year. She said teachers recognize the unique stressors seniors face and offer them more compassion and opportunities to unwind. 

“I think teachers can see how much we are struggling with college applications,” Williams said. “I’ve had different assignments that have given us a little bit more of a break or time to relax in class. I think [teachers] very empathetic and I am appreciative of the teachers that have made seniors’ lives easier. However, I think [this empathy] can apply to other students across the board. Other grades and even teachers need breaks too.”

English teacher and student athlete share perspectives on sleep deprivation

English Teacher Stephen Thompson said on top of creating and grading assignments, his responsibilities as a parent worsen his sleep cycle. Thompson, a father of three young children, said he and his wife rarely sleep for long stretches because their kids often wake them up in the middle of the night.

“I don’t sleep enough, by a long shot,” Thompson said. “I have three kids and the two youngest have [my wife and me] up multiple times a night and up pretty early. This certainly makes my work less effective and my emotions considerably more frayed. In terms of physical health, I no longer exercise because I am not able to sleep long enough in one stretch for my muscles to properly recover, and since I carry children around all the time such recovery failure has led to injury.”

Thompson said he believes he and his students face similar issues with school-related stress, but he said parenting-related stress is uniquely detrimental to his nights.

“Grading takes time, and because I have kids who demand a lot [out] of me, I have to take time from my sleep schedule to grade,” Thompson said. “I imagine it is similar to students juggling multiple commitments and losing sleep over it, but I don’t think soccer will wake you up at 3 a.m. [like my children do].”

Varsity soccer player Harry Pennell ’23 said both his sport and his schoolwork prevent him from going to bed at a reasonable time. However, Pennell said his late bedtime is not caused by his extreme workload but rather by his procrastination.

“I tend to procrastinate on my work until later in the day, and I have trouble starting work right when I get home,” Pennell said. “Also, I’ll have extracurriculars after school and after [I’m done], I’ll just [stay] awake. I typically go to bed at 1 a.m., and I’m [comfortable] with that time. I’ll just know that as long as I can get [my homework] done before class, I don’t need to start it until later.”

Pennell said this deficit negatively impacts his psyche and how he feels in social, academic and athletic settings.

“If I go to bed really late, I can definitely feel a difference waking up,” Pennell said. “It’s harder to force myself to get up, but I generally feel it more towards the afternoon. During the last class of the day, I could very easily fall asleep. Then, if I have something to do after school, I feel like I’m a zombie. That kind of [bothers me] knowing, in soccer for example, I may not be performing to my highest ability because I’m not getting enough sleep.”

Pennell said different teachers often assign work on the same days, and the nights where his work piles up prevent him from consistently resting.

“I could manage my time better, but that’s kind of a lot to ask for busy teenagers,” Pennell said. “Luckily, most teachers are very understanding when it comes to this topic. If you were to ask for an extension [on an assignment], I think most teachers would let you. For me, communication between different teachers from different subjects would help because on some nights I’ll have literally half an hour of work. Then, other nights we’ll have something like an essay or a test to study for. That’s when I find myself getting the least amount of sleep, just on those terrible nights where [work] all builds up.” 

While Pennell said he procrastinates starting his homework, Edward Kim ’23 said he struggles to complete work quickly. Kim said his pacing and inability to work for the long stretches of time large assignments cause him to be in bed after midnight nearly every night.

“I’m really tired at school, especially [when I’m in class] at the end of the day and on days when I have my harder classes,” Kim said. “I have so much trouble paying attention during those classes. I have no energy by then. Honestly, even if I did sleep for a good amount of time, I know I’ll have the same problems because I always have trouble focusing. I don’t know if that’s just me, but I’m pretty sure some people can relate.”

Students and teachers share how mental health impacts their sleep

Stella Glazer ’23 said her experiences with academic pressure, mental health issues and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) contribute to her inconsistent sleep cycle.

“I struggle with insomnia but I also have anxiety and ADHD,” Glazer said. “I have this problem where I can’t focus on my homework, so it takes me forever to get it all done, and I end up being able to go to sleep at around 2 a.m. in the morning. I also have a really hard time falling asleep because of my anxiety. I can’t shut my brain off if I’m just laying in darkness. I have to watch television to be able to fall asleep.”

 Glazer said her sleep schedule has no effect on her attention span but said she often feels depleted and exhausted during the day.

“I personally think that my body has gotten used to getting barely any sleep,” Glazer said. “I feel like I’d feel the same whether I get four hours or 12. I do think that it affects my behavior, though, because I never have any energy and I’m [always] running on nothing. I have to really push myself to get through the day.”

Glazer said while a few of her friends are able to maintain stable sleep cycles, she views sleep deprivation as a common problem throughout the school community.

“I know some people at school [who] go to sleep super early, which is shocking to me,” Glazer said. “While I don’t think [sleep deprivation is] necessarily a universal thing, it’s definitely something that way too many students and teachers struggle with. I think your individual skills 100% play a role in sleep deprivation because someone who has the ability to finish all their work in one sitting totally would have an advantage over someone who, for example, struggles with mental health problems that affect their motivation, attention span or energy levels.”

Video Art Teacher Reb Limerick said they view sleep as essential to their health. Limerick said they aim for eight hours of sleep per night, but they said their routine depends on their workload and personal responsibilities. Limerick said, given how greatly their quality of sleep impacts them, they often prioritize rest over the amount of work they complete. 

“I physically can’t handle caffeine and I’m not a napper, so I have to rely on my nighttime sleep and my hydration and nourishment choices to sustain my energy each day,” Limerick said. “If I’m running on less than seven hours of sleep, I find myself not as well equipped to handle stressful situations or solve complex problems in an improvisational manner. I really try to prioritize my nightly sleep over finishing my never-ending to-do list, because I know how vital rest is to my mental well-being.”

In reference to their to-do list and work routine, Limerick said they find themself overwhelmed by how much they have to manage. 

“I consider myself a highly productive person, and yet I always feel like my to-do list is devouring me,” Limerick said. “The school asks a lot of us, kids and adults alike, and it is often empowering to rise to the challenge and surprise ourselves with what we’re capable of achieving, but [it] can also be overwhelming and unhealthy. [My friend gifted me a pin] that says, ‘You are doing enough’ in rainbow text, but I honestly feel like I am doing too much. [They are] all things I love, but [are] too many good things [to manage] for my own good.”

Limerick said their situation is not uncommon at the school. When speaking with students, they said they empathize with the exhaustion and stressors their students say they feel.

“When my students tell me that they’re running on one to three hours of sleep, I feel so awful for them,” Limerick said. “I remember pulling all-nighters to write essays in the college lounge with dormmates, which was essentially a toxic bonding experience. I don’t think it’s healthy for teens to stay up until morning doing homework. I am seeking a more balanced life, and I wish this for my students as well.”